California district to pay $360K after firing Christian teacher who opposed trans pronouns policy

Jessica Tapia, a former teacher at Jurupa Valley High School of Jurupa Valley, California, being interviewed by Seth Gruber in April 2023.
Jessica Tapia, a former teacher at Jurupa Valley High School of Jurupa Valley, California, being interviewed by Seth Gruber in April 2023. | Screengrab: YouTube/Seth Gruber

A California school district has agreed to pay $360,000 to settle with a Christian teacher reportedly fired for refusing to use the preferred pronouns of trans-identified students.

The Jurupa Unified School District agreed to a settlement with Jessica Tapia, a high school teacher who was fired last year when she refused to follow school policies, which she felt conflicted with her religious beliefs. 

These policies included requiring teachers to use students' preferred pronouns and hide students' chosen gender identity from their parents.

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Advocates for Faith & Freedom, a law firm that helped to represent Tapia, announced the settlement on Tuesday, with Jurupa USD agreeing to pay Tapia $285,000 and $75,000 for her attorneys' fees in return for Tapia no longer seeking employment with the school district. Both sides agreed not to file additional litigation.

Julianne Fleischer, legal counsel for AFF, said the settlement should serve as "a reminder that religious freedom is protected, no matter your career."

"If the school district's actions were legal, no teacher of faith would be qualified to serve as a public school teacher. Jessica's story is one of faithful courage," stated Fleischer.

"She fought back to ensure her school district was held accountable and that no other teacher has to succumb to this type of discrimination."

A JUSD spokesperson told Crisis in the Classroom, "This settlement is not a win for Ms. Tapia but a compromise of a disputed claim."

"The settlement certainly does not state or prove any illegal action or discrimination by the District," the school district spokesperson continued.

"The District continues to deny any illegal action or discrimination against Ms. Tapia. As is clear from the settlement agreement, the District has not admitted any fault or wrongdoing against Ms. Tapia."

In January 2023, Tapia was fired from her job as a physical education teacher at Jurupa Valley High School after her superiors found out that she opposed the policies for trans-identified students.

Tapia filed a complaint against the school district in May 2023, claiming that their actions violated her First Amendment rights and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bans discrimination based on religion.

"The directives required Ms. Tapia lie to parents about their children's gender identity, refer to students by their preferred pronouns, refrain from expressing her religious beliefs with students or on her social media, and allow students to use the bathroom or locker room that matched their preferred sex," read the complaint, in part.

"Because Ms. Tapia was unable to comply with the directives due to her religious beliefs, she requested an accommodation from the District. JUSD refused to provide her with any accommodation and subsequently terminated her employment with the District."

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